THE NINE NATIONS
Book One – The Sliding World
By Jim Beard
A Becky Books Production
The truth is we are not big fantasy readers. Oh sure, being involved
with pulpdom, we’ve read our share of Robert E. Howard’s Conan and Charles
Saunders African mythology books but not a whole lot more. In fact, we tend to
avoid the genre these days in the place of masked avengers and noir mysteries.
So why this one? Well, in all honesty because the author is someone of unusual
talent whose past efforts have always entertained us. We opted to give it a go.
At the start of the tale, we learn that things are rather bleak
in the world of the Nine Nations. Apparently the land mass upon which the
varied countries are situated is actually sliding over the edge of a bottomless
abyss. It’s as if Mother Nature has decided to destroy human kind and nothing
can stop this slide to oblivion. Amidst this dismal predicament, something
happens in the land
of Complin that
predicates an unusual quest. A notorious thief has stolen a pendant that is somehow
mystically connected to the land and its retrieval becomes King Green’s
singular goal. To that end he assigns his General Ketch to put together a small
group of warriors and take the Warrior’s Road through other nations on a quest
to find the pendant.
Ketch chooses an odd assortment of male mercenaries and a
group of fierce maiden Horse Wardens of Uzzlin.
As this is transpiring, the King orders his chief law enforcer, High Warrant
Jon Torck to accompany a magician named Stoan and a separate mission. It is the
King’s belief that the mage may be able to divine a way to end the slide and
save civilization. Torck, who abhors any kind of idol worship and mumbo-jumbo, is
reluctant but acquiesces due to his staunch loyalty. Their journey leads them
to the mysterious uninhabited zone known as the Graylands where nothing lives;
not animal, vegetation or human. There, Torck will meet his destiny head on.
As ever, Jim Beard has woven a totally original story unlike any other sword and sorcery adventure. It is filled with intriguing, complex characters and the pace is relentless from beginning to end. Oh sure, there are the required fantasy elements, but it is how he weaves them into his narrative that we found refreshing. Like all good sagas, Book One ends on a cliffhanger and we are looking forward to it with relish. Don’t let us down now, Mr. Beard. We’re having too much fun.